26 Feb How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables
As a dietitian working with parents of young children, one of the most frequently asked questions is: “How to get my kids to eat their veggies?” Should you bribe them with dessert? Reward them with praise? Hide the veggies in other foods?
Watch the video below, or read on to find out!
To answer this question, I wanted to share a study that looked at whether kids ate more veggies if you rewarded them. This took place in Belgium and the researchers looked at 98 preschool aged children. they gave the kids a variety of veggies and found out the least-liked veggie was chicory (a really bitter tasting vegetable). So the authors used chicory as the study vegetable.
Twice a week, the preschool children were offered a bowl of steamed chicory. The kids were split them into three groups:
1) The first group was simply offered the vegetable.
2) The second group was offered the vegetable, along with the promise of a reward (a toy or a sticker) if they ate the chicory
3) The third group was offered verbal praise for eating the vegetable.
Then the researchers did a follow up test eight weeks later. In the group that was just repeatedly offered the vegetable (with no extra reward), 81% rated that they liked the chicory. Then 68% of those that were rewarded with a sticker or a toy liked the vegetable and 75% who were rewarded with verbal praise liked the vegetable.
This helps to show that rewarding (which is seen as pressure) actually decreases your kid’s likelihood of actually eating and enjoying the vegetable. The best thing you can do to get your kids to eat their vegetables and enjoy them, is to repeatedly expose them to it over and over. With no pressure at all.
There are some other things that you can do to encourage kids to eat the vegetables without any pressure, like serving them in different forms.
- Kids often like food or veggies in the shape of fries, baked or baked as chips. If you have a mandolin you can use that for sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips and just roast them, which brings out some of the natural flavour.
- It’s okay to add butter, salt. Dips are fine as well!
- You can give the veggies funny names, like “here’s your trees and cheese!” if it’s broccoli. Or “super-sight carrots.” Studies show kids will eat more of those fun foods!
- Offer vegetables at a time when your kid is likely to be hungry and therefore more likely to try them. Such as before dinner or when they get home from school.
- Getting kids involved. Let them pick out a new vegetable they haven’t tried at the store. They will be more likely to want to give that veggie a taste.
Overall, you don’t want to include any pressure with those tactics. And I saw this myself a couple weeks ago. I offered my family sliced cucumbers with dinner and my three year old said “No. I’m not eating these.” And I said, “okay.” He ended up eating six slices! Yey if I had said, “Arden, you have to take a bite” or “You have to eat one piece before you have dessert,” then likely there would have been screams, there would have been fighting. Maybe he would have taken a bite, but that’s it. So by removing that pressure he actually ended up eating more of the cucumber.
Struggling with a picky eater at home? I have a three part video series that you can sign up for below: